New architecture council will be tasked with protecting Prague’s image

A new architecture council will work to prevent the construction of controversial projects, such as the Don Giovanni hotel in Prague's Vinohrady neighborhood, next to the New Jewish Cemetery, in the future. Photo: Wikipedia.
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Team of 13 experts will examine potentially controversial projects in the capital and seek to avoid another Blanka debacle

Prague, July 15 (ČTK) — A team of 13 renowned architects and other experts is to watch the image of the UNESCO-listed Prague and prevent controversial construction projects, the daily Lidové noviny (LN) writes today.

The new council will work as an advisory board of the Prague Institute of Planning and Development (IPR). It will meet at least four times a year and deal only with key construction projects in Prague.

Though the council will not be authorized to decide on them directly, its stance will be binding on the IPR, which makes decisions, LN writes.

Since the 1990s, a number of dubious buildings have appeared in Prague, such as the Letňany metro station located in wide-open fields, the kitsch Don Giovanni Hotel situated close to the New Jewish Cemetery and the huge Blanka tunnel complex whose costs continue to rise but whose benefits have been questioned.

The paper also mentions the design of the new National Library by the late Czech-born British architect Jan Kaplický, which was ultimately never constructed, but which President Miloš Zeman has said he would like to see built .

Kaplický blob-like design, dubbed "Octopus" for its organic shapes, won an international architectonic competition in March 2007. However, the project, which had many fans and opponents, was scrapped eventually, partially due to a strong opposition of then-President Václav Klaus and because of a permanent confusion concerning a zoning decision and a building permit.

The IPR institute would like to prevent similar situations that could spoil Prague's reputation in the world, and this is why its new head, Tomáš Ctibor, is trying to push through a new way of approving crucial building projects in the capital.

They must be considered thoroughly and analyzed before a building permit is issued, which will not be threatened by some missing "stamps" from the authorities or political preferences, LN writes.

A part of the institute's new concept will be the 13-member expert council, which starts its work on Friday.

Its members have been selected by respected institutions, such as Charles University, the National Heritage Institute and the Chamber of Architects. They are not their employees but are considered renowned independent experts.

The council comprises, among others, architects Josef Pleskot and Miroslav Šik, historian Richard Biegel and Professor Václav Liška, from the Czech Technical University (ČVUT).

"If the majority of the council does not support the respective building, the institute will not be able to give consent," Ctibor said.

He said the IPR used to be a closed organization that sometimes pushed through particular interests. It would like to get rid of its bad reputation and suspicions of bribery, and work in a transparent manner, LN notes.

The meetings of the new expert council will be open to the public, for instance, Ctibor said.

The new council should not only assess new projects but also draft its own strategic and metropolitan plans and recommend how to better use some public places in Prague, LN writes.

 
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